Bard in the Yard, Outdoors

In these unusual times companies find themselves performing in more unusual spaces. Many flocked online but with the permission to now perform outside Bard in the Yard has brought this new, original 40 minute production to the great outdoors. Written and directed by Victoria Baumgartner our Bard was Miztli Rose, one of 15 actors taking on the role.

The production is timely focusing on William Shakespeare in a plague outbreak in 1605, locked down in London attempting to write his latest masterpiece-King Leonardo, his three daughters and a silly dog. Shakespeare is struggling for inspiration and focuses on his previous successes, his leading man Richard Burbage’s reluctance to sing and dance and his rivalry with the prolific Ben Jonson.

The monologue was at its strongest when William was in gossip mode-about his family, his life and about his neighbour Walter Raleigh pottering about with nowhere else to go. Rose was incredibly charismatic and performing in a Croydon park with runners, loud Italian families and toddlers running around couldn’t have been easy. Baumgartner’s script was a humorous look at Shakespeare’s work, his influences and ultimately a reminder that art does go on, whatever the circumstances.

Will & Co’s Bard in a Yard is primarily aimed at private audiences in gardens but you can book them (though limited in audience of 2) for use in a public park. This is on the more expensive end of the cheap seat. Private entertainment in a safe space was always the more high end option but it is good value for money and reflective of an industry that has lost and needs to recoup a lot. Outdoor performances have for various reasons (weather) never been the default in this country but like Shakespeare’s Globe being part of nature, with its sounds, smells and sights, feels normal, in a world where it isn’t clear what is normal anymore.

Edited to add (16 July 2020): Park performances are not limited to 2 people. Will&Co will confirm future collaborations which may make this more accessible and cheaper than current options

Bard in the Yard can be booked via https://www.bardintheyard.co.uk/ from £89.60

A Hundred Words for Snow, Vault Festival

This a new production from RG Productions of Tatty Hennessy’s play, which featured as part of the Heretic Voices in January 2018 along with Sonya Hale’s Dean McBride, starring Ted Reilly and Friend of the Cheap Seat Annie Fox’s A Woman Caught Unaware with Amanda Boxer.

This revival at the Vaults sees a new director and performer replace the Arcola run’s Max Gill and Lauren Samuels. Gemma Barnett is Rory, a teenage girl who suffering the general shame of being a teenager, with the name Aurora and whose dad is a Geography teacher at her school has to deal with his sudden bereavement which puts pressure on a strained relationship with her mother.

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Furious at her mother’s decision to cremate him Rory decides to take his ashes to the North Pole, following the revelation he has planned a trip there for the two of them. It is a study in the depths of grief presented in a funny and warm way, despite the cold setting. Rory encounters the ice, boys and ultimately her own realisation why she is doing this; her love for her father as well as her stages of grief. She isn’t only unprepared for the Arctic weather, she is unprepared for how her life will continue without him.

Hennessy is a strong writer, it would be difficult to ruin her work. In Lucy Jane Atkinson’s vision it is a lot more scaled back than at the Arcola and I found this to be a positive, in managed to convey the isolation a lot better. Barnett gives a solid performance as a teenager doing her best for her dad amongst her anger and confusion at the world. It is a realistic portrayal of the invincibility teenagers have whilst fighting their own insecurities. Rory losing her virginity is particularly portrayed movingly. The whole production is moving without being hysterical.

 

A Hundred Words for Snow is on until 11 March https://vaultfestival.com/whats-on/a-hundred-words-for-snow/ Tickets are £14.50

 

 

 

Good Girl, Trafalgar Studios

Naomi Sheldon’s monologue makes its way to West End after a Fringe runs at the Old Red Lion and VAULT Festival. It is an exceptional piece of work that has not only made me consider the power of monologue but what it feels like to be a woman.

Good Girl is a piece full of sensory triggers; the feeling of being underwater, the smells of her close friends but the overall sense of not belonging and seeking validation for reasons she never understands.

GG’s story from 1996-2018 looks primarily at her relationship with herself; her intensity, her anger, her orgasms and eventually the numbness that overrides those feelings. Sheldon doesn’t try to explain GG’s actions as anything more than being a girl/woman. There’s no attempt to suggest she is Neurologically Atypical or even an in-depth look at why she craves validation from older women (her mother is never mentioned at any point and it isn’t a big deal) whilst also fearing what boys may think of her. Sheldon’s strength is her characterisation, she doesn’t overwhelm with characters so she can give her all into them from the tall, slightly butch best friend, to the Northern female teachers and even her father and men in her life. As a performance, it is very similar to Adam Rowley-Scott in This is Not Culturally Significant and whilst I am delighted Sheldon is developing this story into a film I do worry its charm will be lost if it employs in an ensemble when Sheldon is more than capable of doing it all herself.

The story is presented in such a fun way; her cheeky looks to the audience, the relish in which she recreates the period where she kicked boys in their balls with a gradual darker tone as she gets older, more promiscuous and loses close friends because of her actions. It doesn’t conclude with a happy ending, GG has accepted who she is, has coping mechanisms and it is a shame that the rest of world doesn’t know what to do with her or the many women like her.

 

Good Girl is on until 31 March http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/good-girl/trafalgar-studios/ 

Bunny, Tristan Bates Theatre

Review by Carole Lovstrom

Katie- Catherine Lamb
Writer – Jack Thorne
Director – Lucy Curtis
Running time 1 hour 10 minutes

A clever, ambitious, funny and scary piece of theatre, delivered with grit and integrity by a superb actor. A Lamb/Thorne triumph – 5 stars from me.

So I usually take the odd discreet note during performances of plays that I am reviewing but I struggled with this one. I was so caught up in the storytelling that I had to stop and listen, and soak up the superb acting and the razor-sharp writing.

Bunny by Jack Thorne, Catherine Lamb, White Bear Theatre photos by Dashti Jahfar _DSC1063

This is a stunningly well-told story delving into the mind of a teenage girl (Katie, played brilliantly by Catherine Lamb) who experiences an evening of scary, challenging situations, which she seems to find fascinating, uncomfortable but also exciting. It reminds us how vulnerable a young person can be and also reminds us that things haven’t changed that much – teenage years have always been about taking risks and throwing common sense to the wind.

Katie reveals many of the disturbing choices she has made and, with a sense of pride, announces that she had saved her virginity to give to someone special, disregarding the other activities with a series of boys, that did not seem to give her much in return.

Katie is clearly a clever girl who expends a lot of effort “dumbing down” her language and ambitions in order to fit in. The character develops into a person you just want to hug and take away for a long chat about self-worth. The fact that Katie is resilient and appears not to be completely destroyed by events, alongside the flashbacks into her consciousness, left me feeling that she would learn to value her self, and might just be ok in the long run.

Catherine Lamb is the co-founder of Fabricate Theatre, barely a year old. One of the objectives is to produce fast-paced theatre to attract younger people and this is an excellent example of a piece of theatre that not only meets but also transcends that ambition.

Bunny is a relevant work that speaks to young people but also to us 50-somethings, who are that mother – apologising for making “the wrong effort”, searching for the “how to raise a teenager” handbook, and feeling quite pathetic as we blurt out we’re “worried but not sure about what”. This has a far broader reach.

It is no surprise that Jack Thorne is an award-winning playwright – the play is so tightly written – and I’d advise anyone to go and catch Catherine in this production as I really think we will be seeing a lot more of her in the future. I certainly hope so.

 

Bunny is on at the Tristan Bates Theatre, 1a Tower Street, WC2H 9NP, until Saturday 27th January.

Mon 15 – Saturday 27th January 7:45pm (Matinees 2:45pm)

Standard Tickets: £15/£12 Concs

Group Booking: £10 for 8+ tickets booked in a single transaction.

Woman Before A Glass, Jermyn Street Theatre

Lanie Robertson’s 2005 bio-monologue about Peggy Guggenheim could be just another ‘poor rich girl’ tale but in Guggenheim and in the performance from Judy Rosenblatt we see not only a tale of a woman who singlehandedly ensured modern art survived but also changed the way people looked at how art should be.

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Guggenheim may have money and priceless works of art but she has no class; drunkenly goosing the director of Tate Britain Museum, flirting with men old enough to be her son, drinking excessively but watching her you do not judge, you just enjoy the ride. What a lot of rides Peggy had; two husbands, numerous lovers including Samuel Beckett, who encouraged her to spend her money on art. Guggenheim insists throughout she is one of the ‘poor’ Guggenheims as she is only a millionaire but it is obvious money hasn’t brought her happiness as she tells us about her horrible marriages, her lost loves and her difficult relationship with her distant children and her determination to keep her ‘children’ (her works of art) from her uncle’s museum.

There was a very good documentary about Peggy in 2015 called Art Addict. Anyone who saw this will have a background knowledge of Peggy will probably learn nothing new, as well as anyone coming fresh, might be slightly baffled. It is simply an old woman telling us about her incredible life but from another actress, it could be dull but at the risk of sounding like I am trying to get on the production’s marketing JUDY ROSENBLATT IS PEGGY GUGGENHEIM. It is a part she clearly loves and has played Peggy before. It is a raw yet classy performance; a great depiction of a woman of means whose gender, Jewish race and scandalous lifestyle made her and her works of art an outsider and who fought to get acceptance from society but also the men and artists (of all genders) through money and support. Her tale about escaping France after the occupation shows a deeply caring and charming but lonely woman, who gives because she feels she has nothing else to offer but her assets.

Woman Before a Glass is part of Jermyn Street Theatre’s Scandal Season until 3 February. Tickets available from £20

Dark Vanilla Jungle, Theatre N16

Second Son’s Production of Dark Vanilla Jungle can be compared to watching a sunset. It starts off quite bright, with tales of hot summers and ice creams with her mother, ending in Epping Forest as we, along with Andrea, work out what went what wrong for her in his revival of Philip Ridley’s monologue.

I also found myself comparing it to Dennis Potter’s Brimstone and Treacle as Andrea enters the life of a disable soldier and his mother. Andrea doesn’t have the excuse of being the devil but simply a messed-up woman who has been abandoned and unloved throughout her short life. Her mother and father abandon her with an equally unloving grandmother she doesn’t know, her first love isn’t who he says he is and is it any wonder she turns to a man who she knows can never love in return.  Ultimately it looks at how an abuse of power to one, can turn into an abuse of power to others.

This production has its weaknesses; Emily Thornton seemed unsure of her lines and the decision to portray this native outer Londoner with her native Bradford accent seemed at odds with everything we had been told about the character. If it was about portraying Andrea as an outsider, then her story does that. The two simple props seemed to be a hindrance rather than a help and it is a shame. We need that feeling of claustrophobia in her cell, a feeling that Theatre N16 space did to great effect in Swifties, but here it felt like a poor direction decision from Samson Hawkins rather than the stumbling of a woman telling a big story in a small space.

It is a very out of sorts piece. Strengths, weaknesses, timelines and locations are all explored by this one character in 80 minutes. Ridley’s vivid detail from beginning to end, can be hard to stomach but it needs the minimalism this production provides to be truly believable. The piece fails to tidy up all the loose ends but this is part of the charm of the story and monologues in general. Can I trust Andrea? Can her despicable actions be boiled down to her despicable treatment? It is a timely revival as women constantly look at their place and role in society.

Dark Vanilla Jungle is on until 31 March 

Tickets £14/£12

Vines, Theatre N16

Metalmouth Theatre’s monologue is very hot take on being a woman, a feminist and wondering if there is more to life. Alex Critoph plays a young woman hiding from the world. Friends are a necessity and she has taken to wearing a headscarf because it might give her privacy and respect.

This 30-minute piece, directed by Leah Fogo, is very up to date looking at the women’s march and what it means to identify as female in 21st century Britain. It is also a cold hard look at how distressing being a millennial can be, it is a subject that will dominate a lot of plays but this show looks at a character who decides to find herself spiritually through an ayahuasca ceremony.

Despite its, short,  running time it is a very vivid look at hallucination and extremes people will go to to find themselves. Critoph’s unnamed woman takes an extreme and expensive (how can her character working in a restaurant have £300 spare) but I was drawn to Critoph’s performance and it was enhanced by Ella Simkins makeup.

There were glimpses of other stories, her relationship with her manager Rob (purely platonic?) and hints of an abusive childhood but whilst the retreat scene was beautifully done, I particularly enjoyed the lighting in the scene where Critoph meets with a healer, Lola. It is just a shame the experience we have with Critoph isn’t a bit longer. It feels like there was a lot more the character had to say and the audience is shuffled out before we even get a chance to get to know what it might be.It touches upon being quite an emotionally draining with moments of liberation.

Bunny, White Bear Theatre

Jack Thorne is one of Britain’s hottest writers, who has managed to move seamlessly between stage and screen, his most well known work is the latest Harry Potter installment Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Channel 4’s recent drama National Treaure. This monologue cements why with a fantastic performance from Catherine Lamb as Katie, an 18-year-old girl juggling friendships, school, parents and UCAS forms.

The production’s prologue of shuffling music is a glimpse into the format of this play. We rarely stay in one place long, whether it is Katie telling us about her parents’ erratic relationship or her own erratic relationship with older and sullen Abe, a young black man who works at the Vauxhall factory in their hometown of Luton.

 

Bunny by Jack Thorne, Catherine Lamb, White Bear Theatre photos by Dashti Jahfar  _DSC1063.jpg

Catherine Lamb (c) Dashti Jahfar

 

Whilst Thorne’s writing is a realistic glimpse into being a teenager (perhaps I missed any references but it didn’t seem to be time specific. It could today or twenty years ago) it is Lamb’s performance, which stuns as she plays not only the emotionally insecure Katie but also all the other characters in her life. Physically she reminded me of Anna Friel but there was also something quite rabbit like about her-staring wide eyed into the audience as she justified her approaches to life and the decisions she had made, and often regretted.

 

As a piece of writing it very much reminded of other young writers such as Andrew Maddock, whilst Maddock focuses on Watford Thorne’s detail of Luton has made me more prepared for the town as any guidebook would be. Thorne doesn’t attempt to resolve the issue Katie faces, she has had them and will continue to have them and this 60-minute piece is a glimpse, though detailed, into her life.

As a production, it makes great use of small number of props and Samuel Miller’s and Lex Kosanke’s stunning lighting and sound design make you forget you are in a small space above a pub. It is also great to see a female focused production with Lucy Curtis and Angela Gasparetto embracing the space and Lucy Miller’s simple bedroom design, which shows that despite turning 18 Katie is still a child at heart.